As a fan of the Cronulla Sharks, I am more than happy to sit back and enjoy the hard times currently being endured by our little brothers to the slightly north.

As a Rugby League fan though, I am absolutely loving what I have seen in the brief yet impactful start to the Shane Flanagan era.

To be honest, it's starting to look very similar to the rebuild that took place in the Shire prior to the 2016 Premiership success.

Hopefully, minus the months of scandal and late nights worrying that your footy team will be shifted to Perth ...

In terms of the footy side of things, though, the Dragons already look to have a brighter future than they did at any point last season.

For those who forget the long rebuild overseen by Shane Flanagan for the Sharks, which is forgivable considering the Sharks team he took over was very similar to his current Dragons outfit.

Overpaid players, an aging squad and serious recruitment issues.

There were some dark days at the Sharks, even before the apparent issues that eventuated. The fact they didn't collect an NRL wooden spoon before 2014 came due to pure luck.

Yet the club stuck by Flanagan who slowly built a side capable of toppling the mighty Melbourne Storm and delivering the Sharks first ever Premiership.

The one trait Flanagan seems to hold dearest more than any other is that he wants players who want to be at the club.

Flanagan bit the bullet and allowed star outside back Zac Lomax to walk away from the club.

On the surface, this seems ridiculous, especially considering Lomax is showing form to a level that has him under serious Origin contention.

Unfortunately for the club, though, Lomax made it very clear that he wanted to play in the centres and wanted to leave the club to pursue that dream.

Flanagan, who has been proven to be spot on his assessment that Lomax would be a superior winger, allowed him to walk across Sydney to join the Eels.

Flanagan is also known for signing talented players who are looking to prove a point, who are looking for an opportunity, and who have a chip on their shoulder.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 15: Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan looks on during the round 19 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Cronulla Sharks at Cbus Super Stadium on July 15, 2017 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason O'Brien/Getty Images)

While at Cronulla, he signed Michael Ennis, who saw the writing on the wall at the Dogs following their signing of Michael Lichaa.

The irony is that both clubs swapped numbers nines, with Ennis going on to play a huge role in the Sharks' title success.

Flanagan also added James Maloney, who was allowed to leave the Roosters despite leading the side to a title and being the NSW five-eight at the time.

Maloney, similar to Ennis, proved to be a monumental piece of the Sharks Premiership puzzle after being allowed to walk away from his club.

Throw in Andrew Fifita, a raw yet discarded talent, Matt Prior, a hugely underrated player, and Chris Heighington.

Flanagan also relied on the club's young talent. Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird played a huge part in setting the competition alight.

Bird's bravery on Grand Final night summed up the Sharks attitude. They would risk their careers for the prize.

That is due to Shane Flanagan!

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Ben Hunt of the Dragons runs with the ball during the round 24 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons at CommBank Stadium, on August 28, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Now over to the current Red V setup.

Flanagan brought in his son Kyle. An undoubtedly talented player who had been made a scapegoat at the Roosters before a solid yet unspectacular stint at the Bulldogs.

Kyle has brilliantly complimented Ben Hunt in the halves and has already forged a better combination than 'enjoyed' by Dragons fans at any time in 2023.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Luciano Leilua are both early into their word in the Red V jersey but improve the squad with their presence.

Meanwhile, the no-frills yet frightening Francis Molo has been extended.

Nu Brown's signing provides a utility option that the Dragons really lacked prior. Brown is familiar to Flanagan, having played under him at the Sharks.

Again, it is very early in the rebuild, and the Sharks didn't see immediate improvement, but I'm seeing the signs.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 11: Blake Lawrie of the Dragons takes on the defence during the round nine NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on May 11, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The fact that reigning Dragons player of the year Blake Lawrie has been demoted to the reserves bench shows that Flanagan doesn't judge on reputation.

Lawrie's numbers have been down compared to his impressive 2023 season and he has paid the price for that. Flanagan holds players to account and expects the very best, no matter what your history.

In terms of the talented youngsters, the Dragons SG ball team players off for a Grand Final birth this weekend.

Flegg currently sits fourth.

Watch for players in those squads to eventually play a big part in the Dragons First Grade activities, albeit in a few years time.

Again, it's a slow process but one that has proven successful. In a team that was allergic to winning Premierships no less.

The Dragons start to the season proves Flagan has them on the right track.

I had the Dragons as clear wooden spoon favourites. I was far from the only one.

As a Sharks fan I was sad to see our title winning coach join the enemy as their head coach.

As a Rugby League fan though it was the perfect appointment to drag the Dragons back to days of success.

Trust me Red V fans, the rebuild is looking very familiar and dare I say may ultimately end up much the same.

Hopefully not though!